The House of Israel is a phrase which gets repeated often but I never get many people explaining the small details behind the name.

The Jewish people are called the "House" of Israel. Is there a deeper meaning behind why we use the word "House" or is it simply the closest word we were able to find in the english language?

I've had people say that it's a phrase used to simply explain the Jews are from the line of Jacob. "The House of Israel" being a phrase to denote a familial line. The only reason I question that determination is that there are other examples of language being used to describe familial lines in the Torah. So this specific phrasing makes me wonder if there's a deeper meaning behind it.

Everything in the Torah tends to be extremely deliberate, so I always had this belief that there was a deeper concept behind why we refer to the Jewish people as the "House" of Israel.

  • 2
    It seems like a normal linguistic phenomenon, and is present in English as well. Think for example of the poe's famous house of Usher, although that is a poor example since it is a pun.
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 15 '17 at 5:17
  • 3
    Maybe the Hebrew and English share the sense that calling something a "house" (as in the House of York) indicates, "a family or family lineage, especially a noble or royal one; a dynasty"
    – rosends
    Feb 15 '17 at 11:28
  • Also might mean "home", which would refer to the jewish family being in one home
    – Mennyg
    Feb 15 '17 at 13:19

Throughout Tanac"h as well as Rabbinic literature, we see (some form of) the word בית to mean "family", and not a physical house. Some examples:

Breishit 36:6 uses the phrase נפשות ביתו meaning "souls of his house". A physical house has no living "souls". Also, I highly doubt that Esav moved his physical house. There were no tractor-trailers, then! It means "family", here.

In one of the prayers we say:

אחינו כל בית ישראל - Our brothers (from) all the house of Israel. Other than the Bet Hamikdash, I don't know of any physical house that can contain every Jew. It means, "family", here, also.


The house has always taken on a crucial role in the development of the nation. We specifically needed to remain in our houses to eat the pesach and the 'house' of the nation (women, see rashi on Shemos (19:3), are addressed first when giving the torah.

As this article quotes Rav Hirsch, "The Bais Yaakov-The House of Yaakov in every generation is the repository of the future of the Torah. It is like the Holy Ark. Therefore being a part of Bais Yaakov is a noble distinction. It brings into focus the import of the home. It’s no wonder then that one sage in the Talmud said, “I never called my wife my wife but rather my ‘Bais’-house!” "http://torah.org/torah-portion/dvartorah-5771-shavuos/

  • But is there any evidence that any of this has to do with usage of the term בית in בית ישראל?
    – mevaqesh
    Feb 15 '17 at 22:23

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